Shaping the day: how to adjust homeschool for kids of different ages

Posted April 3, 2020


Since schools were closed and exams cancelled in March, families across the UK (and the world) are adjusting to life with everyone at home. As well as working from home (or trying to), managing the different educational needs of more than one child is a challenge in itself. After all, it’s normally the work of several teachers. This week, we spoke to experienced home educator and qualified secondary teacher Eli Murton about how she does it. Eli homeschooled her three sons – now aged 11, 14 and 18 – through primary level for several years before they entered secondary school. We asked her how she’s been adjusting their home education to match their specific needs.

MT: How have you designed a home education for your oldest son?

EM: He is 18 and was preparing for his A levels, before his exams got cancelled. He wasn’t really bothered about this, but my worry is because his place of work has also been closed (in hospitality), he won’t have a focus for the foreseeable future, which isn’t healthy in the long term. We’ve taken this opportunity to put in place ideas about shaping your days, and learning other skills. He is taking over the very neglected downstairs bedroom, so that’s his current practical project. He’s had to learn how to plaster uneven walls, wall paper, hang doors, sand woodwork etc. So he’s learning practical life skills while also taking on extra responsibilities in the house. My husband is really practical and it’s stood him in good stead both at work and at home, so it’s a nice opportunity for him to pass on those skills. I am a whizz at tiling, so I’ll need to find something to tile soon, to add to his repertoire!

MT: And for your younger sons?

EM: My 14-year-old starts studying by 9am as he has more to do – he is very independent and disciplined about it. My work is mainly with the youngest, my 11-year-old. For him, a typical day begins late – he needs to be downstairs, dressed and having done his morning jobs etc by 10.20am (I know! But there have to be some perks right?) ready to begin school work at 10.30am. We do a series of 30-45 min lessons each day: some are set by the school, and some aren’t.

With things like science, the projects he’s being set by school are ones he’s actually done before, so we are tacking them on to the end of the day like homework, and concentrating on our own home education curriculum. We have a late morning break, and then lunch, and we’ll be done by 3pm at the latest. We’re mainly focusing on the core subjects to keep on top of them. We also make sure the boys get outside a lot if the weather allows, or exercise indoors.

MT: As a homeschooling parent over many years, how would you tend to structure your children’s days? And how would you adjust for their different ages?

EM: I had 3 kids all being home educated 3 years apart. Having one-to-one time is really important. We had a timetable and it was colour coded. Blue stood for an online activity – we used them for literacy and numeracy – and green was one-to-one time with me. My oldest, by about aged 9 was expected to be able to have a task set, be started off and complete it independently. Of course I was at the table to help, but this nurtured independent learning.

The youngest also had a shorter day with breaks scheduled at different times so everyone had my time as well as time on their own. Online guided learning platforms, particularly for primary aged kids are brilliant. Youtube clips are also great discussion starters – kids learn a huge amount through conversation. Being around for each other’s work every day also meant that lunchtime quite often became a source of indirect learning – they’d all be nosey about what the others were complaining about!

Thanks Eli!

To help you out with some guided online learning as Eli recommends, here’s a list of top educational resources to suit different ages.

Online learning resources for primary level

Twinkl is an excellent library of teacher-made worksheets, lesson plans and learning games for maths, english and science.

CBeebies Games – it’s amazing how much children can learn through play, and for children up to the age of 6, CBeebies have an excellent range of educational games. From counting and literacy to creativity and music, your child can have loads of fun and keep their core learning going at the same time. For slightly older children, CBBC games are great too!

TedEd is a great source of high quality educational videos spanning hundreds of subjects, from History, to riddles, to science, psychology and talks from inspiring people.

Audible Stories – let’s not forget the value of stories. In response to covid-19, the audiobook subscription service have made a huge range of children’s stories absolutely free. They’ve got over seven age categories, from toddlers all the way up to teens, and hundreds of titles to choose from.

DK Find Out is a great resource from one of the best-known providers of children’s learning resources. Your child can stay entertained and engaged learning about space, nature, science, other cultures and more.

Online learning resources for secondary level

Khan Academy is a comprehensive source of online activities and explainer videos for secondary level kids. It’s known for its Maths resources, but it also has a great range of English, Art, Science and Languages learning material.

MyTutor offers one-to-one online tuition from subject experts. Our tutors are all from top UK unis, so they studied the same subjects as your child in the past few years, and they can explain things in a way they’ll find relatable. While you’re also trying to work from home, the focus of one-to-one lessons also means that you can get on with whatever else you need to do, knowing your child is engaged with a friendly tutor.

BBC Bitesize has a huge library of resources categorised by level, exam board, subject and module so your teen can find exactly what they need help with. Once they’ve had a read of the resources, they can then practice their skills with interactive quizzes to make sure it all sinks in.

S-Cool is another great resource for hundreds of written resources for every subject at GCSE and A Level, with quizzes and practice questions to help your child keep on track and ready for school next year.

SaveMyExams has lots of practice exam papers and other exam prep resources – even though your child’s exams will have been cancelled if they were this year, practicing exam questions will help them keep to the right standard to move into a higher level when they return to exam prep.

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